Checks and Balances

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Lord Acton

I was born in Canada and came to the US between my sophomore and junior year in high school. One of my first courses in my newly adopted country was high school civics. I learned with a newcomer’s sense of awe about the three branches of government and their important role in each checking the power of the other. It is highly attributed that this system of checks and balances is the genius of the America.

In the intervening years since those wide-eyed high school years I have been a casual observer of the reality that power and money are self preserving. The more you have of each the more you tighten the circle to protect and increase your lot. The fiasco on wall street is evidence of what happens when the self-reinforcing power/money loop runs exponentially out of control.

If there is any hope of reforming this mess, and I have no expectation that it will be reformed, it would seem that some sort of system of checks and balances will have to be devised. Increased (and effective) regulation might help with some of the “checks” that are needed. But are there “balances” that have yet to be devised? Does the final dissolution of trust by Bernard Madoff mean that investors will demand enough clarity and transparency to balance the unhealthy tendencies of money grubbing?

I have never been a strong advocate of regulation but it it seems to me that a more robust system of checks and balances is needed in our financial systems. The “checks” are somewhat obvious (i.e. regulation). The “balances” are yet to be determined.

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